With Comic-Con just days away, workers say ‘yes’ to a possible strike at the convention hotel

Hundreds of Hilton San Diego Bayfront workers voted overwhelmingly Friday to give their union leaders the power to call a strike, paving the way for a possible walkout when Comic-Con returns next week.

Now that it has the workers’ blessing, Unite Here Local 30 leaders will be able to quickly call a strike if they believe the hotel is unwilling to make an acceptable offer for improved wages and benefits .

The vote passed 99.6% in favour, the union reported Friday evening. The workers have been without a new contract since last November, when their three-year contract expired.

“Even after being beaten down by a global pandemic and prolonged layoffs, these workers are still ready to fight for what they deserve,” said Brigette Browning, president of Unite Here and also executive secretary-treasurer of San Counties Diego and Imperial. Labor Council. “They’re used to hard work, they know what they’re worth, and tonight’s vote confirms they’re determined to get it… It’s up to Hilton now.”

The hotel declined to comment on the labor dispute except to say it “maintains a cooperative and productive relationship with Unite Here Local 30 and we are confident that we will reach an agreement that will benefit our valued members of the team and for our Hotel.”

Negotiations over a new two-year contract covering nearly 600 full-time and part-time employees, from housekeepers and front desk workers to bartenders and servers, are set to resume on Monday and could determine whether a strike will indeed take place.

Union leaders say they hope Hilton hotel reps offer a pay rise well above the 50 cents an hour offered by the company last month.

While workers at the 1,190-room Hilton earn well above minimum wage, most are low-income service workers who struggle to make ends meet and, in some cases, have to work second jobs. Hourly pay for unionized workers at the Hilton ranges from $19.30 to $20.65.

Unite Here is asking for an increase of $3 per hour per year over two years. He’s also pushing back on a proposal from Hilton to raise the monthly cost of employee parking from $45 to $65. The increase would effectively negate the salary increase offered by the hotel, Browning said.

The union represents about 450 full-time employees at the Hilton Bayfront and another 150 on-call workers.

At a rally earlier this week, three of San Diego’s elected leaders — Mayor Todd Gloria and council members Steven Whitburn and Raul Campillo — sought to put additional pressure on hotel property by declaring their solidarity with unionized workers. And on Thursday, San Diego Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos added his voice to the chorus of supporters.

Clarifying that he was not speaking on behalf of the Port of San Diego, Castellanos said in a Tweet that he was “appalled at what has been offered to these workers.” The Hilton, like the Convention and other bayfront hotels, sits on the harbor-supervised state tides.

The last hotel strike in San Diego was in the fall of 2018 when workers at the Westin San Diego Gaslamp walked off the job for 35 days. The strike ended after a new contract was negotiated, giving cleaners a 40% pay rise over four years.

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